How to Cope With An Unexpcted Auto Accident Fatality

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in , .

Car accidents happen all the time, every day, and people tragically die across the nation as a result of these incidents. In fact, in 2020 alone, 38,824 people died in car accidents in the U.S. Auto accidents cause 16% of all deaths of adults between the ages of 25 and 44. That does not begin to cover the staggering number of people left to grieve for lost loved ones and family members. Far too many adults who pass away in car accidents potentially leave behind spouses, children, and other surviving loved ones who are left to pick up the pieces.

When insurance agents get involved, the problem gets worse because they represent an auto insurance company that will go to great lengths to avoid a payout. At Matz Injury Law, our compassionate personal injury lawyers are here to help surviving family members deal with the aftermath of their loved one’s death. Besides helping families understand their rights, we can help you fight for fair compensation for the wrongful death you have experienced.

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In a Fatal Car Accident, Here Is How to Protect Yourself

If you are a survivor of a car crash involving fatalities, there are things you can do while at the scene of an accident to protect yourself.

Get to Safety

The first thing to do, whenever possible, is get to safety. Get off to the side of the road, and, if possible, move any vehicles to the side of the road as well. The idea is to ensure that the accident scene does not get worse if more cars come along.

The one exception to this is if someone is severely injured. If they cannot walk on their own, they should not be moved before medical personnel arrive. In such cases, do whatever you can to protect yourself and others from other vehicles. Road flares, reflective surfaces, and the like can be important deterrents.

Seek Medical Attention Immediately

Call 911 to get medical personnel to the scene of the accident immediately. Even if you do not feel hurt, others may be severely injured, or you may have injuries you are not aware that you have. Some injuries can take days or even weeks before they show symptoms, and getting seen early can stop them from getting worse. Getting seen also shows that you took the situation seriously from the start and will help your personal injury and insurance claims.

File a Police Report

You are required by Michigan law to file a police report in any incident where someone is injured. Even if you do not think you have serious injuries, it is still a good idea to file a report. This report can be an essential aid in building your personal injury case. It can form a baseline and a touchstone for you to remember the details of what happened to you as you need to repeat the story during the course of your case.

Exchange Contact Information

Next, exchange contact information with the other driver. This should include getting the license plate number of the cars involved, car insurance information like the company and insurance policy number, driver’s license information if possible, and cell phone numbers or landline telephone numbers. If the other driver refuses to exchange contact information, be sure to tell the police when they arrive; the information should be available on the police report from the scene, and your car accident lawyer can seek it when needed.

Besides the other driver, try to get contact information from any witnesses or bystanders. Having eyewitnesses to the accident can form an important part of the case you build for compensation and can back up what happened if the car insurance company tries to avoid paying.

It is important, however, that you do not apologize at the scene of the accident. Remember, insurance companies will look for any reason to get out of paying, including blaming you for what happened, and they can use an apology against you. It is OK to express concern for the well-being of others, but never say you are sorry.

Document Injuries and Property Damage

Next, document the scene in as much detail as possible. Take pictures, record the time of the accident, and make any notes you can. Draw diagrams to help you remember. Record anything said at the scene of the accident that might help support your case. Was everyone wearing seat belts? Did everyone stop at the stop sign or red light? Was someone speeding? All of these can affect your case later.

What to Do After a Loved One Dies in a Fatal Car Accident

If you suffer the loss of a loved one in a car crash, this is called a wrongful death. It is important to understand your rights in these cases and the benefits you are entitled to receive.

Understand Your Rights

You have the right to recover no-fault benefits, to sue the driver for pain and suffering, and to collect “uninsured motorist” benefits. The insurance company will try to get you to sign a release before making an offer for compensation. If you sign, you will waive your rights to these benefits. That is why you should never pursue insurance claims settlements without proper representation.

Insurance policies partially cover no-fault benefits under personal injury protection (PIP) clauses. PIP is supposed to pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses resulting from the accident, for life, up to the maximum allowable amount in the policy. PIP is also supposed to pay for lost wages and replacement services for up to three years following the date of a motor vehicle accident.

No-fault benefits also cover property protection or PPI. This covers up to $1 million in property damage from the accident. No-fault insurance also provides residual liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage, or BI/PD. It is designed to pay up to the policy limits if someone is killed, permanently disfigured, or seriously injured, if an accident involves someone out of state or occurs out of state, or where there are damages not otherwise covered by insurance.

No-fault insurance policies can be very complex and full of exceptions and legalese. Determining where auto insurance stops and health insurance begins can be confusing. This is why it is vital to have someone in your corner who can understand the wording of policies and who can help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

Do Not Let Insurance Companies Take Advantage of You

Never give statements to an auto insurance claims adjuster before speaking with an attorney. The insurance adjuster will very often come across as sympathetic and compassionate at first, but make no mistake: Their job is to get away with paying as little as possible. If they can find a reason to deny insurance claims, they will.

In addition, never let an insurance adjuster survey vehicle damage unless your attorney is there, and do not be surprised if they threaten you with no settlement when you do not cooperate. This is a common tactic. The moment you cease to give them what they want, many adjusters will cajole, bully, and strong-arm you and try any tactic they can to get out of paying your claim.

This does not mean you should avoid informing your insurance company. Many policies require you to report an accident to maintain your coverage. When you do file your insurance claim, however, keep it as simple as possible, and stick to the basic facts. Let your lawyer handle the rest.

Seek Legal Counsel

We have said it several times throughout this section: Dealing with the insurance company without a car crash attorney is not a good approach. The most important call you can make after a fatal accident is to a qualified and experienced auto accident attorney like Matz Injury Law. The right attorney knows how to fight against bullying insurance adjusters, protect your interests, and work hard to get you the full, fair compensation you deserve. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, contact the top-rated Michigan personal injury attorneys at Matz Injury Law at 1-866-22Not33 or through our online contact form for a free consultation with no disclaimers today.

How to Cope With the Loss of a Loved One: Let Yourself Grieve

When you lose a loved one to a reckless driver, your entire world turns upside down. You are wracked with anger, guilt, fear, and sadness. You may not know where to turn or what to do. The first step is letting yourself learn to grieve, and that includes taking all the time you need to let it run its course.

Learn About Mental Health

PTSD, anxiety, and depression are all extremely common after traumatic events like the sudden loss of a loved one. Knowing the signs of these conditions can help you control them so that they do not control you. You may find yourself avoiding driving, for example. You may experience recurring nightmares or flashbacks about the crash. You may have panic attacks with a racing pulse and difficulty breathing. These are normal reactions to trauma, but if they start to make you unable to complete normal daily tasks, it may be time to seek help.

Find a Grief Counselor

If you are having difficulty dealing with the symptoms of trauma or grief after the accident, you should seek qualified help. You may find this in local support groups or counseling programs. Many people see counseling as something for others, but real help from a professional counselor can be a proven way to help you process your grief and learn to live again.

Do Not Forget About Self-Care

Taking care of yourself is vitally important. Certainly, other loved ones are fighting their own battles, but as you try to be strong for them, do not forget that you have mental health needs as well. Try to get some exercise; it can be a powerful way to manage stress. Pursue hobbies and other interests. Watch your eating and sleeping habits; sleeping is especially important. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.

Ask for Help

It cannot be stated enough: There is no shame in seeking help. Too many people think that seeking professional help makes them “crazy,” but nothing is further from the truth. Seeking help is perhaps the most rational thing you can do to help you on the road to recovery. You can also lean on friends, family, and people close to you who are good listeners. Whatever path you take, just be sure to ask for help when you need it.

File for Survivor’s Loss Benefits

If you have lost a loved one in Michigan and you are a dependent of the deceased, including children under 18 or a spouse, you can file for benefits that are offered for the first three years after your loved one dies. The amount payable changes every year, however. You may get benefits that will help you recover:

  • After-tax income based on the deceased’s earnings.
  • The value of healthcare and other fringe benefits you have lost from the death.
  • The value of any activity the deceased person undertook that may have resulted in economic value, like side work.
  • The costs of replacement household services for help getting things done around the house like chores.
  • Funeral and burial costs.

Survivor’s loss benefits are completely separate from the compensation you might get from a wrongful death suit.

You file survivor’s benefits through the insurance adjuster assigned to the claim. It requires copies of the death certificate and funeral bills as well as written proof of your loss of household services and financial support, which can be done through income statements or tax returns. Your attorney can help you make the necessary deadlines and file the right forms to help you get the benefits you need and deserve.

How Do I Deal With Survivor’s Guilt After a Car Accident?

Survivor’s guilt is a normal situation that involves living through a traumatic event and feeling like you should not be here when someone else has died. It may not strictly be that you feel guilty; feelings of “it should have been me” can also indicate the condition.

Dealing with guilt requires giving yourself time to mourn. It can take a long time and does not necessarily happen in steps or in a set time frame. Follow through with the coping strategies above, and let the grief happen. Work to find balance in your life and try to find the good and beauty in the world around you. Try to notice one little thing each day. Try volunteering your time to honor the person you lost. Once again, seek support when you need it, where you can find it.

How Do I Help Surviving Family Members After a Fatal Car Accident?

When you are grieving, it is not uncommon to struggle to complete basic everyday tasks. Your family members may need this help, and if you think you are doing better than they are, you can take steps to help. Do not simply say, “let me know if there is anything you need.” This puts stress on the grieving family member. Take steps to help with things they might need. You will be surprised at how much they appreciate it.

Help With Errands and Chores

Stop over and cut the grass for them. Help take their garbage out. Do the little things that might get overlooked when grief is overwhelming.

Deliver Meals and Groceries

Everyone appreciates a home-cooked meal. You may not want to show up on their doorstep unannounced, so give them a call and let them know you are bringing over a meal. You can offer to leave it (securely packaged, of course) on their front porch so they do not feel obligated to play host.

Take Care of Administrative Tasks

Help family members make social media statements, so they do not have to think about it. Offer to contact jobs, schools, or other groups they may need to contact. Make specific offers to help them with practical tasks.

Research Legal Resources

If they have not contacted an attorney or taken the right legal steps, try to offer them options to do so. It is important not to be pushy; simply offer resources as a suggestion to help them out.

Check in

Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply reach out and ask how they are feeling. Offer a friendly ear when they need it.

My Loved One Died in a Car Crash. When Should I Hire a Lawyer?

If you have lost a family member in a car accident, your claim may be worth thousands, and you may be entitled to several kinds of pain and suffering damages. These can include emotional trauma, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of support and comfort, and other invisible injuries. You may be eligible to collect compensation for lost healthcare and wages, funeral expenses, medical bills, and practical economic damages.

A survey conducted by Nolo.com found that readers who hired legal representation received $50,000 more on average, even after the normal contingency fee of around 33%. With Matz Injury Law, you may get even more because we charge only 22%, not 33%. We want our victims to have more compensation than other attorneys do. That is why our slogan is “22, Not 33.”

Matz Injury Law: Caring, Compassionate Personal Injury Lawyers

Our compassionate lawyers have handled cases all across Michigan, and we are here to offer a compassionate ear to surviving family members of tragedies. We offer a lower 22% contingency fee, leaving you with more money for your family. We are ready to fight for your rights every step of the way. Call us today at 1-866-22Not33 or use our online contact form for a free consultation.

Written By Steven Matz

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 33 1/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 33 1/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients. 

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients.  We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims.  Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.

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